F’ville tavern owner wants to loosen alcohol, sign restrictions
The recently elected members of the Fayetteville City Council during their campaign run used the idea of potentially relaxing some aspects of the sign ordinance as a way of stimulating business activity.
They got their first chance at making good on their proposal at the Feb. 2 council meeting when Larry Graves, owner of the Olde Courthouse Tavern located downtown across from the old courthouse, requested consideration of posting additional signage at his downtown business along with other requests to extend the time for purchasing alcohol, allowing outside alcohol consumption in designated areas downtown, changing the percentage of alcohol and food sold in city restaurants and having an increased number of downtown events to stimulate more foot traffic.
Graves spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. He began his remarks by complimenting former Mayor Ken Steele and the previous council for having been supportive of his efforts to open the tavern.
“I got good support and nobody tried to run me out,” Graves said.
With that, Graves had a number of suggestions that he maintained would help his business, other businesses in the immediate downtown area and other restaurants across the city that sell alcohol.
Graves said he recently purchased and installed two “tavern flags” on the outside of his building on Glynn Street that enhance the look of the building that is already outfitted with lights and ads in the windows. Graves said the flags have contributed positively to his business, adding that installing them also put him in violation of the city’s sign ordinance and that he had received a citation for the violation.
“The sign ordinance needs to be loosened up.” Graves said of the square footage requirements in the ordinance.
City Manager Joe Morton in commenting on the violation minutes later said Graves had received a warning, not a citation, adding that aspects of the sign ordinance would be reviewed at the upcoming council retreat.
Graves in another request suggested that the times for selling alcohol by the glass be extended an additional hour. The current times carry a cutoff at midnight on Saturdays nights and 1 a.m. on weekdays.
Graves also asked the council to look at amending the current percentage of food sales to alcohol sales. The current provision states that sales of food should account for 75 percent of sales. He maintained that doing so would be beneficial to other restaurants that serve alcohol.
Graves prefaced another request by noting the good job done in bringing events such as the chili cook-off and others to the downtown area. His request centered on bringing more events to the old courthouse area and having the city confer with the county to “loosen up” the ordinance so that adults can “walk around” with alcoholic beverages.
“We need more events on a regular basis and when we do we need to loosen up on the (alcohol) regulations to let people walk around with alcohol in designated areas around the square,” Graves said.
Commenting on the requests, Councilman Walt White in referencing restaurants that serve alcohol said, “The old council didn’t go into this with alcohol in mind.”
Graves in response noted that his is a restaurant with a bar, not a bar with a restaurant.
Councilman Mickey Edwards at the end of the comments said the council could look at the requests. Councilman Paul Oddo asked that Graves put his various requests in writing so that council members can refer to them as part of their review of the sign ordinance and other issues that will come up at the retreat in early March.
The all-day council retreat will be held on March 9 at the old courthouse in downtown Fayetteville. The proceedings are open to the public.